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The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney
Photograph: Jem Cresswell/Destination NSW

Things to do in Sydney this weekend

Art, live music, outdoor dining and so much more

By Maxim Boon and Divya Venkataraman
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Hello, 2021! If it feels like January's already flying by, you're not alone. While it's more important than ever to go out safely, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy all of what Sydney has to offer. Step back and take in the beautiful things right around you – from coastal walks, to delicious market breakfasts to cool public art.

In the mood for some romance? Check out our favourite date bars in the city, or one of the best places to grab a tipple underground

Just make sure to stick to appropriate hygiene and physical distancing measures when you go out, as laid out by the WHO and the Australian Department of Health.

RECOMMENDED: The best long lunch spots in Sydney.

Find the best things to do this weekend

Callum Francis and Seann Miley Moore in costume for Rent, including angel wings, on the steps of the Opera House
Photograph: Supplied/Daniel Boud

1. Get your heart racing at Rent

Theatre Musicals Sydney Opera House, Sydney

Shaun Rennie's production of Rent at the Sydney Opera House follows a gang of glorious misfits trying to make a quick buck in New York’s East Village in 1991. The march of gentrification is pushing artists out of their spiritual home, and the HIV/AIDS crisis is tightening its grip on the area's queer community. Mark, Roger, Angel and the gang band together to celebrate the triumph of love and art over adversity, in a loose re-imagining of Puccini's grand opera La Bohème.

Roast chicken with potatoes
Photograph: Supplied/Sunday

2. Swing by Potts Point's newest chicken shop

Restaurants Potts Point

Sunday is a new Potts Point rotisserie by one of the co-founders of Belles Hot Chicken: designed to evoke the casual, hearty comfort of Sunday night family dinners, but set inside a snazzy new restaurant and bar in one of the city's premier dining destinations. Morgan Mcglone, co-founder and head chef at Belles, is swapping the deep-fryer for the rotisserie – with the help of ex-Apera chef Ryan Blagrove. 

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people sitting in front of the harbour
Photograph: Supplied

3. Check out live tunes, food and gin at the Botanic Gardens

Things to do Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

The Garden Social is a new event spanning across three weeks this summer. It brings together all the things you want on a balmy January evening: live tunes, outdoor dining and glorious views of the Harbour. Oh, and G'n'Ts, all night long. It's completely free, too. 

Hamper
Photograph: Supplied/Botanist Kirribilli

4. Grab picnic boxes to eat by the harbour

News Restaurants

You could just pack some foil-wrapped sandwiches and soon-to-be-warm beers for your next alfresco dining experience – or you could pick up one of the Botanist Kirribilli's new picnic hampers.
They're packed with goodies like sliced mortadella, localcheddar smoked wagyu, duck liver pâte, crackers, and petite macarons. Grab a bottle of wine, and it's a date. 

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Westpac Openair Cinema
Photograph: Fiora Sacco

5. See a film under the stars

Film Outdoor cinema Mrs Macquaries Point, Sydney

Westpac OpenAir returns to Mrs Macquaries Point with the Opera House and Bridge as its staggering backdrop. Catch Naomi Watts in emotional biopic Penguin Bloom, lush queer historical drama Ammonite, hilarious looking Irish romantic movie Wild Mountain Thyme, Australian Western High Ground and classics including Love Actually, Almost Famous, Thelma & Louise, The Devil Wears Prada and Pulp Fiction. 

An illustration of rapper, writer and actor Briggs
Photograph: Supplied/SWF

6. Get lit at an abridged version of the Sydney Writers' Festival

Things to do Fairs and festivals Carriageworks, Eveleigh

SWF is back at Carriageworks during this year’s Sydney Festival, with four fantastic events spread across the weekend of Saturday, January 16 and 17. Rapper, actor and children’s writer Briggs will be joined by the legendary Archie Roach and First nations storytellers in a session called Our Home, Our Heartbeat; this year’s Booker Prize-winner Douglas Sturt will speak live from New York about his stunning semi-auto-biographical novel Shuggie Bain. There's more where that came from, too. 

 

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a man and a woman in white shirts, him upside down, against a yellow backdrop
Photograph: Supplied/New Theatre

7. Watch Shakespeare's Twelfth Night at New Theatre

Theatre Comedy New Theatre, Newtown

“All is fortune,” Malvolio announces in Shakespeare’s fabulously OTT rom-com Twelfth Night. It's hard not to agree. Consider us pumped for this latest take, staged at Sydney's New Theatre between January 6 to 26. A kooky classic about disguised identity and falling for the true spirit of a soul, this new staging, helmed by director and designer Victor Kalka, rests on the toss of a coin, as who each actor plays depends on how the silver lands on the night.

 

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High tea cakes in blue, green and yellow
Photograph: Supplied/Tery Gunata

9. Eat a Frozen-themed high tea from dessert maestros, Koi

News Restaurants

Gut instinct tells us there is cross over between people who love Disney and those who love dessert, and the center of that particular Venn diagram has just been gifted a Frozen-themed high tea. These are not just your run of the mill scones and mini tarts, the cake tower is being filled by Koi, famous for their beautiful pastries with elaborate flavour combinations and glossy, perfect finishes.

The multi-tiered cake-fest is themed to the the song 'In Summer', sung by the naive, weather optimist and anthropomorphised snowman, Olaf. As a result the cake line-up features a layered dessert of passionfruit, coconut and pineapple; the cherry jazz, made with fresh cherry, raspberry, jasmine, blood orange, and almond; a chocolate raspberry cake; a confection shaped like a piece of precious jade; a salted caramel macaron and a chamomile and honey scone. There are savouries too, including a tomato cream pastry with lump fish roe, a tiny chicken and leek pie, and tomato and fetta toast, plus free-flowing tea or coffee.

The high tea costs $70 per person and runs on weekends from Saturday January 9 to Sunday January 31 at Koi Ryde and Koi Chippendale. Bookings are essential.

Need more finger sandwiches and scones in your life? Here are more of Sydney's best high teas.

Shirtless dancers perform in Magic Mike Live Australia
Photograph: Magic Mike Live/Peter Brew-Bevan

10. Catch the sweat and raunch of Magic Mike Live

Theatre Musicals The Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park

After opening in Las Vegas and touring to London and Berlin, Magic Mike Live opened in Sydney just in the nick of time to take our minds off the outside world and lose our fears about what 2021 could have in store for us amongst a sea of ripped bodies belonging to the Aussie cast of this raunchy romp. Don’t come in expecting the musical version of the films from which this live show takes its namesake. Instead, be prepared for a woke update of the classic male strip show. 

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Two Australian cowboys on horseback
Photograph: Supplied/Sydney Festival

11. Check out SFF's Summer Season

Film Film festivals State Theatre, Sydney

The Sydney Film Festival, the pinnacle of the city’s cinema-loving scene, had to head online in 2020, but returns to its spiritual home –  the glamorous surrounds of the State Theatre – for their first ever team up with Sydney Festival. Bringing the popcorn across the weekend of Friday January 15, 2021, to Sunday January 17 SFF director Nashen Moodley presents a small but perfectly formed capsule program of five fantastic films for the summer. 

Boat lined up in the harbour for floating cinema
Photograph: Supplied/Mov'in Boat

12. Float on the harbour while you watch a movie

Things to do Cockle Bay Wharf, Darling Harbour

So we've had movies in the park, movies by the beach, outdoor movies in bed, and movies set in front of the glorious Sydney Harbour – you'd almost believe that this city had exhausted all the possible ways of having an al fresco cinematic experience. Until now, that is. Mov'in Bed is upping the ante on summer movie-going this year and transforming into Mov'in Boat, by bringing a fun (and socially distanced) floating cinema to the harbour. 

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Dinosaurs
Photograph: Supplied/Australian Museum

13. Check out a Tyrannosaurus Rex exhibition

Museums Australian Museum, Darlinghurst

The Tyrannosaurus Rex stars in a new blockbuster exhibition at the Australian Museum. And the 13-metre-long, saw-toothed, weedy-armed predator isn’t coming alone – the whole tyrannosaur clan will be there. The newly refurbished museum has a colossal collection of tyrannosaur skeletons, skulls, fossil eggs and even coprolites (fossilised dinosaur dung) on display for the whole family to discover.

Frozen Capitol Theatre Disney Sydney 2019
Photograph: Deen van Meer

14. See Frozen come to life

Theatre Musicals Capitol Theatre, Haymarket

While December in Sydney is a good deal toastier than in Arendelle, it’s pretty cool news that Elsa and Anna will bring the magic of Frozen to the city. The smash hit Disney animated movie was transformed into an equally in-demand Broadway musical, which now winds its way down to Australia just in time for Christmas. We'll be the first audiences to get a peek outside of New York.

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Frosé Your Way at Untied
Photograph: Supplied

15. Get silly at a self-serve frosé bar

Bars Cocktail bars Untied, Barangaroo

Round up your drinking buddies, the frosé craze of summers past is not over yet. You can go DIY with the wine world’s adult slushie at this self-service frosé station returning Barangaroo’s tropical rooftop bar, UntiedThe aptly named Frosé Your Way bar allows you to to choose from seven fruity flavours and a pick’n’mix of fresh and dried fruits and nostalgic lollies to garnish your bevvie including sour gummy worms, gummy bears and rainbow straps.

the cast of circus musical Pippin
Photograph: Supplied/Brian Geach

16. Check out Pippin onstage at the Lyric Theatre

Theatre Musicals Sydney Lyric Theatre, Darling Harbour

The first big-budget musical to open in Sydney since the Beforetime has so much relentless razzle-dazzle, Pippin is a high-energy carnival featuring circus acrobatics, vaudevillian schtick, high kicks, jazz hands, plenty of earworms and... medieval French history. Yep, you read that right.

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A plate of oysters with a slice of both lemon and lime at Waterm
Photograph: Anna Kucera

17. Get bang for your buck at one of these oyster happy hours

Bars

There's not really much middle ground with these tasty treats of the sea: but there's one thing that unites oyster enthusiasts and it's the joy of being able to eat them by the dozen and have change to spare for a great glass of sparkling on the side. Here's where to go. 

 

Umbrella and tables on a terrace
Photograph: Supplied/Ketel One

18. Check out Icebergs' summer terrace bar

News Bars & Pubs

It's universally acknowledged as one of Sydney's most aesthetically pleasing locations, but Icebergs' good looks come with a cost: the cost of dining from Maurice Terzini's carefully curated and fittingly pricey menu, specifically. If you want those views overlooking the sun-struck Pacific Ocean and buff lifeguards without forking out quite that much, the restaurant's new pop-up terrace bar should have you sorted for the summer months. 

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Pixar Putt
Photograph: Supplied

19. Flex your skills at Pixar Putt

Things to do Games and hobbies Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta

There's nothing more likely than a round of mini-golf to coax the hyper-competitive streaks in siblings, school mates and family members to the surface. Now, you can face off with your foes (we mean, friends) at this pop-up putt putt experience in Parramatta. The Disney Pixar-themed mini-golf course teed off at the Bank West Stadium in Septemeber, and is sticking around until the end of January 31 due to popular demand.

 

Chicken wing box with chillis nearby
Photograph: Supplied/Winghaus

20. Eat mountains of chicken wings at WingFest

Restaurants Winghaus by Bavarian, Circular Quay

Dial up the heat on what's set to be an already toasty summer with Winghaus by Bavarian's new three-month-long celebration of the mighty chicken wing. Kicking off on December 1 and wrapping up at the end of February, you've got plenty of time to go back again and again to get your hands on hot wings, beers and cocktails all summer long.

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A red-haired Nikki Shiels looking over her shoulder, close-up, as Sybylla in Belvoir’s My Brilliant Career
Photograph: Supplied/Belvoir/Brett Boardman

22. See My Brilliant Career at Belvoir St Theatre

Theatre Drama Belvoir St Theatre, Surry Hills

Esteemed author Miles Franklin gave her name to Australia’s most prestigious book prize. Now you can see her first novel come alive on stage at Belvoir St thanks to a brand-new adaptation by Australian playwright Kendall Feaver (The Almighty Sometimes) and directed by Kate Champion (Every Brilliant Thing).

 

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Pacman made out of bubbles
Photograph: Supplied/Entertainment Park

23. Get a thrill at Entertainment Park

Things to do Prospect

Sydney’s biggest entertainment park has opened in Bankstown in the city’s West. Filled with all manner of thrills and spills, Entertainment Park is home to a truly white-knuckle line-up of fun-filled activities, including arcade games, six full-size bowling alleys, party shops, food trucks, VR and digital simulators and even a barbershop. Plus, the new quarter lays claim to the largest collection of pinball machines in Sydney. No more smashing the space bar on your computer for a pinball fix. 

An atrium with tall bar tables and stools, The Forresters hanging plants and botanical wallpaper
Photograph: Supplied/Yasmin Mund

24. Drink bottomless rosé at the Forresters

Restaurants Surry Hills

The beloved Surry Hilsl local is back, and it's doing long lunches. For $79 per person, start with a rosé spritz, move on to a shared feast featuring salmon tiradito (a kind of spiced ceviche), barbecued corn on the cob, an heirloom tomato salad, and a lot more – all set to the background tune of endless rosé, of course, when you head in between noon-3pm and book for at least four people.  

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Lindy Lee's bronze, liquid-like globule sculpture 'Unnameable’
Photograph: Anna Kucera

25. Check out Lindy Lee's exhibition at the MCA

Art Galleries Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), The Rocks

After months of lying dusty, the MCA is back in a big way, and it's fully embracing the new normal, throwing focus on Australian artists. Lindy Lee: Moon in a Dew Drop celebrates the Australian-Chinese artist’s genius, nimbly dancing through four decades of jaw-dropping creativity crossing mediums and cultures. A new piece of public art created by Lee, the mesmerising ‘Secret World of a Starlight Ember, now adorns the Circular Quay forecourt.

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People painting on canvas and drinking wine.
Photograph: Supplied

28. Paint and sip with Cork and Canvas

Things to do Classes and workshops Cork and Canvas Crows Nest, Crows Nest

Cork and Canvas are inviting us back into the studio again. That’s right, you can dip your brush and wet your whistle in public once more at their Crows Nest and Darlinghurst sip and paint studios, with classes having started up again in early June. Most classes run from Wednesday through Saturday nights, with afternoon sessions on Sundays and some Saturdays, starting at $55 including materials (just BYO wine and snacks). 

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Garie Beach in the Royal National Park
Photograph: CC/Dimitri Koussa

29. Check out the best national parks to explore near Sydney

Attractions Parks and gardens

Cities are amazing, but every now and then, it feels good to slow down, escape the urban jungle and get back to nature. Fortunately, you won’t have to travel very far to find yourself surrounded by verdant greenery and soothing solitude as you explore one of many national parks that can be found on Sydney's fringes. Next time you need a break from the pace of city living, we suggest you take a trip to one of these lush and leafy retreats within 100km of the CBD. 

Jacaranda tress at the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Photograph: Destination NSW

30. Wander around a green space

Attractions Parks and gardens

Whether you're looking to go for a run, walk your dog, have a sedate picnic or just take a break from your four walls, these are the parks to visit. Remember to continue to practice physical distancing as much as you can while you're outdoors. 

Still hungry?

One bite canapes at Mimi's
One bite canapes at Mimi's
Photograph: Daniel Boud

The best restaurants in Sydney right now

Restaurants

This is the Time Out EAT list, our picks for the best places to dine in Sydney right now, from hot newcomers to time-honoured institutions, ranked by our expert local editors. We’re looking for fun, flavour, creativity and value for money at every price point. So yes, of course, you’ll find a fine diner inside the Opera House here, but you’ll find neighbourhood pizza, hole-in-the-wall Thai and lunch-only ramen, too – and that’s what makes our city such an awesome place to get watered and fed. Bon appétit!

 

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